There’s light at the end of the tunnel as we finally approach the end of the latest international break. No longer will we forced to watch our respective nations beat teams ranked hundreds of places below them in the FIFA Rankings and claim we see something special being built. It won’t be long now, stay strong people.
Perhaps the only thing worse than essentially meaningless international football is the conveniently timed surge in transfer speculation. Every time there’s a week off from domestic football it appears every agent, every ‘insider’ decides to speak up about a potential transfer happening to fill the void.
Now I’m not saying every story released this week has been made up or doesn’t hold some resemblance of truth to it, one or two might, but the vast, vast majority scream: ‘I have nothing of note to write about so let’s pull a major exclusive to appease the masses of people bored by international football.’
Arguably the biggest story which fits into that category is of Isco contemplating a €20m offer from Barcelona to see out his contract at Real Madrid and join them on a free transfer in 2018. This rumour was supposedly backed up by FIFA agent Jota Jordi who said talks between the two parties had already taken place.
You see, the footballing environment in Spain is essentially like a playground filled with gossip and insults. Any small, minor detail which one side feels could upset the other is blown up into a major story and both are just as bad at this as the other. No one is the wronged party here, only the audience who fail to find any satisfaction in this tit-for-tat war.
Isco once wore a Barcelona shirt and said Ronaldinho, Xavi and Iniesta were players he admired a lot growing up. Crazy right? Arguably three of the most talented midfielders in the history of the game and Isco wanted to follow in their footsteps. Oh, but they played for Barcelona, so he must secretly want a move there, right? Anyone with a brain would admire those three players. To invent a link based solely on the fact he enjoyed watching them play is stretching it to say the least.
But what about him wearing a Barcelona shirt? Well, as a young lad from Malaga I’d imagine the shirt was probably to do with the three players mentioned before. How often do you see people from cities, which don’t have a great team, wearing another one’s shirt because they admire a player from that said team? Or, you know, going to football training with various replica shirts? It happens all the time.
No, wait, there’s one more piece of crucial evidence we’re all overlooking: he called his dog ‘Messi’. Oh yes, what a slap in the face to Madridistas everywhere as he named his dog after, once again, one of the best players to ever grace the sport BEFORE joining Real Madrid. The only crime Isco committed here was being unable to see into the future to remember how petty certain outlets can be over these things. As really, who cares about a dog’s name?
So let’s trim the fat on the actual situation. Isco isn’t entirely happy with his involvement at Real Madrid. It’s as much as about his lack of minutes as it is feeling there’s a chance he can become a starter at the club. He’ll be 25 next month and while he’s getting his fair share of game time at present it tends to come when others are injured and he feels he deserves a more established, regular role in the XI.
This isn’t about money. Both Real Madrid and Isco are happy with the wages on offer and the player isn’t using interest from elsewhere to demand a bigger deal. The two parties spoke during the summer, as well as just before the winter break, and the sticking point for Isco wasn’t the length of the deal or the money on the table – only his play time.
It isn’t very often you can be in a strong position as a negotiator when it comes to dealing with Real Madrid and Isco’s caution is natural. If he pens a new five-year deal then he could feasibly see out his career at Real Madrid in a bit part role if they so desire. He doesn’t simply want to make up the numbers, he wants to be a key player. Again, that’s hardly unreasonable.
So the idea he’d wait on the sidelines for a year in order to complete a move to Barcelona, who are currently managerless for next season and can’t assure him of a role there, all while his main concern is playing time makes absolutely no sense. He wants playing time but is happy to wait for a year to be guaranteed a key position under a coach, as yet unknown, or who could be out of a job before the summer of 2018 as well. No flaws there, nope.
“Footballers are always exposed to rumours, we’re used to it. Now there’s less [domestic] football some media outlets have to invent certain things,” – not my words but those of Isco himself following Spain’s victory over Israel. “I do my talking on the pitch and I always try my best in order to help the team.”
The reality of Isco’s situation is quite clear: he either gets assurances that he’ll play a significant role in the club’s future and signs a new deal or he feels he needs to move on in order to play more and will leave in the summer to anyone willing to match Madrid’s asking price – except Barcelona of course.
As for how much Isco would cost in the summer I don’t think it’ll be cheap. The idea floated around by highly respected journalist Diego Torres that Isco could leave for as little as €15m seems way off the mark. There will be interest from a number of clubs which will drive the price up and you sense it’d take a bid of at least €30m for Madrid to even pick up the phone.
The €15m quote might have been dropped in to accentuate the reality that there’s no way they’ll allow Isco to ‘do a Luis Enrique’ and join Barcelona on a free transfer and, if worst came to the worst, they’d rather lose a few million selling him elsewhere than watching him join the ‘enemy’ up north on a free.